We spoke with Aruna today about 2014's Amsterdam Enhanced (Mixed by Aruna & AWD).Read to learn more about the compilation itself as well as information about Aruna's musical endeavours and writing processes!
Hi Aruna, where are you reading this from?
My couch at home in LA, I just wrapped a vocal session in my studio and it's 1:30 AM so time to relax a bit.
You used to study classical and jazz music. When did you start getting into the field of electronic music?
In addition to my classical and jazz piano studies, I majored in electronic music production and film scoring while at Berklee. That was my first immersion into composing and producing what I would call electroacoustic music, which is like a modern form of classical music, heavy use of synthesizers and DSP, studying the works of Steve Reich, Varese and these guys. However my heart was always in pop, since that's what I grew up on, so I ultimately ended up pursuing a career as a pop singer/songwriter once I finished school. I won first prize in the USA Songwriting Competition which was sponsored by Sony, who was making production software called Acid. They approached me and asked if I would like my winning song to be hosted for a remix competition on their site. The winning remix ended up getting discovered on MySpace by Stuart Squires, an artist manager who handled mostly vocalists and who was the one that ended up wrangling me into all this. That was around October 2006. Six months later the Thrillseekers collaboration happened and the rest as they say is history.
What generally inspires your lyrics? Are they based on previous experiences?
Almost always yes. It's very hard for me to write honestly about something I have not experienced myself. That's why a lot of my songs are about relationships, especially relationships falling apart. I've definitely been down that road a few times. The only two exceptions to this that come to mind are Velvetine "Safe" and my track "Everywhere You Are" with Mike Shiver. Both songs deal with death, the former someone grieving a loved one that they've lost and the latter the deceased loved one singing back to them. I fortunately don't have much experience with death but it's a very emotionally rich topic and felt really compelling to delve into a bit.
What is your writing process? Is it more of a free-for-all, or do you have a specific method you use every single time?
I'm pretty methodical about it. Melodies almost always come first. I'll work them and rework them and rework them until it feels right to me, I need to feel that little pinprick of joy and pain and tension and release, to feel like they work with the chords as best as they possibly could. Then I go to lyrics.
We’re so excited you were able to mix Amsterdam Enhanced (along with AWD) for us – how come you chose some of the tracks you chose? How did you decide what order to put them in?
Just like with my live sets I like to start and end with my own tracks. Given that I only have two on Enhanced, I knew what they would be, so going from there the next step was making a keymap of how to get from A-to-Z and then filling in everything in between. In addition to making sure the keys fit so that the transitions would be musical, I always look for tracks that are either melodic or very high-energy with a lot of punch and bang; sometimes it's hard to describe what about it hits me. I just know it when I hear it.
Listen to a preview of Amsterdam Enhanced Mixed by Aruna & AWD here:
Tell us a little bit about your recent success with your track ‘Start A Fire.’ How long did it take you to write the track, and what does it mean to you?
The track actually has a fairly lengthy and extensive history. It was originally written in 2009 for a pretty big DJ who ended up passing on it as it didn't fit the direction of his album. So I took it back and did a fair amount of rewrites on the melody in the chorus. I kept the title but changed the meaning and consequently many of the lyrics as well. The lyrics were originally inspired by a pretty bad relationship I was in at the time that was peppered with constant fighting so the metaphor of "starting a fire" referred to that. Once I decided I wanted to change it however I was looking for something I could more recently relate it to. So the concept of looking for passion in a failing relationship and making the title a metaphor for that became much more interesting to me; that's what the song ultimately ended up being about.
You’ve mentioned you were inspired by Myon & Shane to start DJ’ing – when did you start and what kind of music did you start with?
I started in 2011. Initially of course I didn't have many tracks, so Myon loaded me up, and I played from that library, until I was able to get on enough promo pools myself. Over the years I started noticing a common thread between all the tracks that I found myself liking the most, which as most of my Hot Listeners know is that Enhanced-tinged trance/house hybrid, with the beautiful breakdowns but the really hard, punchy drops. I think some people call that Trouse but I know a lot of people hate that term for some reason so I try to avoid it.
Do you plan on playing any gigs this upcoming year – DJ’ing or singing?
My next show will be in Moldova - DJing, no vocals. It’s actually my first time playing there so I'm pretty excited. Travelling to new places is one of the biggest, most exciting perks of this job for me. This particular show is also a white party which I've never been to so I'm looking forward to that. It's also a really great lineup: me, Juventa and Ben Gold. I think our styles are very compatible and Jordan is a sweetie - it's always fun to hang with him.
Do you have any collaborations lined up for the upcoming year?
I'm mostly focusing on my own singles now. I'm finishing one up as we speak which I'm very excited about. For me this is one of the most meaningful and personal lyrics I've ever written. I have quite a few others in the pipeline as well, including an instrumental which will be my first original production, but I can't talk about those just yet.
Finally, where can fans go to support you and stay updated on your music/gigs?
Best place is facebook.com/Arunamusic, or soundcloud.com/Arunamusic. Also fans of my Amsterdam Enhanced mix should definitely check out my Podcast ‘The Hot List’ on iTunes.
Thanks for taking the time to fill us in on your productions and everything that’s going on. Good luck and we hope to hear from you again very soon!...
Amsterdam Enhanced Mixed by Aruna & AWD is out now on Enhanced Music worldwide - download HERE!